Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is It Even a Hand Spindle?

This is how little I know about spinning... an eagle-eyed reader commented that she's seen a spindle like mine in a machine in a spinning museum in Barrington, Nova Scotia. It may not even be a hand spindle - it may only be for machine use. I must confess, I was confused by the lack of little hooky thing...

(It was given to me by a friend who can't actually remember where she got it from, hence the possible confusion... )

Really terrific picture and story of the museum at this link.

Anyway, Denny will help me figure it all out, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clearly, someone thinks I was good this year.

A few great books from Santa this year...

Alice Starmore's seminal book on Fair Isle knitting. If only so I can help Mum with her sweater... It's been out of print for a long time, very glad to see it back. This will be widly relevant in the very near future - I have a couple of colourwork designs cooking - one for socks, naturally, the other a garment.

Another fab obscure book on lace knitting, Gladys Amedro's "Shetland Lace".

The rather absurd and marvelous "Knitted Cakes". Next year's Christmas cake may well be knitted...

And of course, every girl needs a sheep spotting guide.... "Know Your Sheep" by Jack Byard.

This is particularly useful since Denny tells me that 2010 is the year I learn to spin. She is insisting.

I've acquired a spindle... here we go....

I may not yet know how to use the damn thing, but at least I know what a Bluefaced Leicester looks like.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blame It On The Eggnog

Have been frantically working on the Festive Socks, between glasses of eggnog and hunks of boozy fruitcake. About halfway done the second....

the clock is ticking... desperately want to be able to wear them for Christmas.

Am very pleased with them. I've made the stripes match, but have chosen to add a bit of fun by making the heels different. My thought was that since there is so much going on with the yarn, I wanted to keep the overall effect pretty clean.

All well and good but for one key detail....

I managed to mess up the ribbing.

One is k1 p1, the other is k2 p2.

Ah well, blame it on the eggnog. And cake. And Black Oak Nutcracker. And Great Lakes Brewery's Winter Ale.

(I'm surprised that I'm doing this well with them, truth be told...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Twist Collective/Errata/The Internet as a Knitting Tool

In a comment on my previous post, Julia of Twist Collective mentioned that they guarantee all their patterns. A brilliant idea!

Another comment made the wise point that a knitter should always search for Errata before beginning a project. This is one of the reasons I love the Internet. Google the name of the pattern and the magic work "errata" or "updates". Mistakes do happen - if they've been found, chances are they have been published online.

And this is why Ravelry is such a wonderful tool. First of all, it provides an easy way for designers to deliver an updated version of a pattern if a correction needs to be made. More importantly, however, the knitters themselves are an amazing source of information. Between the various forums and discussion groups, and each knitter's project notes, there is a wealth of information to be found on patterns.

This is particularly relevant when a pattern isn't wrong, but a knitter is just have difficulty with it. Whether it's simply a technique that's new to a particular knitter, or whether it's something that's not explained in sufficient detail, or perhaps just poorly or oddly written, the collective wisdom of the Ravelry community is an amazing tool.

In addition, you can often find the actual designer on Ravelry, and ask a direct question.

Patternfish, also, allows a designer to issue an updated version of a pattern to all purchasers. Knitty highlights pattern changes and fixes in pink.

Mistakes do happen - it's all about making it easy for knitters to find the fixes.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Technical Editing/Request To Designers/Minor Rant Of The Day

As a teacher, an editor, and a knitter, I see an awful lot of knitting patterns.

One of my most popular classes is the Project Class. It's a multi-week session that allows knitters to work on a project that is a personal challenge. I get all sorts of great projects in the class - new knitters who have knit a few scarves and are ready to progress to a hat; experienced knitters who want to learn a new skill like lace; and adventurous knitters who want to learn how to wrangle a pattern.

Knitters bring patterns from all sorts of sources - from published books and booklets, from magazines, and of course, all sorts of online patterns, freebie and otherwise. And I have to read through every one of them.

There are lots and lots of online sources for patterns - a thousand and one blogs, including mine, and all those self-published patterns in Ravelry and Etsy.

The problem is that many of them aren't good.

A student brought a hat pattern recently to one of my classes. She'd bought it on etsy, and I was shocked at the poor quality. Sure, the instructions were right, but it was missing key information: gauge and sizing. This disappoints me enormously. As designers, we're doing knitters a disservice if we're not providing patterns that are correct, complete and easy to follow.

Mistakes do happen, absolutely. Typos, incorrect numbers, editing slips. I've suffered from that myself more than once. (True confession: there was a minor mistake in the Vampire Sock pattern when it went live. We caught it pretty quickly, and fixed it, but it was there.)

But not providing sizing or gauge information is a major oversight. That would be bad in a free pattern, but it's absolutely unforgivable in a pattern that is sold.

I'm a little more forgiving of self-published freebie patterns - one of my students worked an absolutely stunning lace shrug from a pattern on a blog. It was a struggle - the pattern wasn't very well written, and there were a few pieces of information missing, but it was a freebie, and the author wasn't claiming that it was perfect, nor did she charge money for it.

In my opinion, any pattern - free or otherwise - needs to be complete and correct. Designers - please please please have someone proofread your pattern. And if there is a mistake, publish errata online. Please.

Incorrect patterns frustrate knitters. And frustrated knitters give up.

And if knitters give up, there are fewer of them out there knitting and buying patterns and yarn, and fewer designers can earn money, and fewer yarn companies can survive.

If people ask me about good sources for free patterns, I point them in the direction of Knitty (of course) and Berroco. I know that in both cases, the patterns go through technical editors - and therefore, they are going to be complete, accurate and well-written. It depresses me that I have to tell people to shy away from indie designers, but unless it's someone whose patterns I know and trust, I can't guarantee that the knitter is going to have a good time.

And after all, this is a hobby. It should be a good time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

KAGY/No Felting

Love it! Mavenknits suggests we form an alliance - Knitters Allied Against Growing Yarn. Can I be a charter member?

Also - because the damn thing is superwash it won't shrink or felt.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Gauge Mess/Festive Socks

(If you think you're likely to receive a hand-knitted Christmas gift from me, please stop reading now. You know who you are.)

If you're still reading, please be entertained by this picture of the very silly sparkle-tastic festive spectacular socks I'm knitting from the North Pole yarn.

I absolutely love this - they're awful and tacky in precisely the right way.

Ok, back to the more pressing topic...

Am knitting a second Morgan hat as a Christmas gift for someone special. I chose a different yarn this time - Mission Fall's 1824. I matched the stitch gauge without a problem (working on slightly smaller needles than I would normally for this yarn) - and yes, of course, I swatched. And I even checked the gauge several times as I was working, as is my wont. And all was good.

But about three quarters of the way through, the little voice in my head started to speak up.

I've worked with this yarn before, for my Rogue sweater. And I recall, very clearly, that the damn thing grew after the first wash. In fact, I recall (only now, of course), swearing off that yarn for things that would need frequent washing and/or a good fit.)

I carefully measured my gauge again. Unblocked, it was a little tight on stitch gauge - which is absolutely fine - but I was already over a little bit on row gauge. Not a lot, but just enough to make me worry.

So I took it off the needles, and very gently blocked it.

It's a good inch and a half too long and too wide - and it looks like a dinner plate.

I briefly considered undoing it a bit, and altering the pattern and generally reengineering it. It wouldn't have been too hard, but I worry that the damn thing would have kept growing.

So, back to the start. (Hey, you! I bet you're still reading - all I can say is that I hope you like it!) I found some Cascade 220 hiding in the stash, so will be using that.

And the Mission Falls yarn? Well, a couple of friends are expecting, and the yarn is washable. Moss green baby blanket, anyone? Doesn't matter if a baby blanket gets bigger, after all!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

FO & Crochet Killer App

In my other life, the tech world, we talk about the concept of a killer app. It's usually used in the context of being the one thing that convinces you to use a particular piece of hardware. In the context of video gaming, we used to say that Halo was the killer app for Xbox - it wasn't available for any other gaming machine (at the time), and it was so good you just had to get yourself an Xbox.

I recently found my Crochet Killer App: the thing that convinced me to seriously take up crochet. You know, like following a pattern and everything...

The Metropolitan Headphones (scroll down) from Brooklyn Tweed's pattern book.

Big old retro headphones - (a.k.a. "cans") in wooly form.

I think I look suitably ridiculous in them, no?

Crochet is terrific for structured fabrics, and using two different sizes of crochet hooks you get a nicely formed earcup. They're hollow in the original design - to put over your headphones! Since I use earbuds, and my ears get very cold, I'm thinking of lining them with fleece for extra warmth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Friends in Kenosha, WI Have Been Improving Things Again

I'm not a user of sock blockers. I have feet for that, after all. My usual (foolproof and pragmatic if slightly odd) method for blocking socks is to get them wet, roll them in a towel to wring them out, put them on, take them off, and then hang them to dry.

I struggle more with drying them than I do with blocking them. I often handwash my handknit socks - not entirely necessary, but it's not a huge hassle and it it's worth it to me if they last longer. And then I have to hang them up to dry.

The thicker ones take ages to dry.

(Gratuitous damp sock story: last October, we flew to the UK for a weekend to surprise one of my brothers brother for his 50th birthday. I finished a pair of Socks that Rocks socks moments before we left home, so I wore them on the plane. I washed them on the Saturday morning, and on the Monday morning, as I was dragging myself out of bed for an early flight, I realized they were still pretty damp. Lots of frantic toweling, and a spin in the dryer, and they were still damp when I needed to leave. Naturally, they were the only clean socks I had, so I put them on anyway and headed out. By the time I got to the departure lounge, they were mostly dry, and to finish them off I took them off in the ladies' loo and spent a few minutes with them under the hand-dryer. I am quite certain that stranger things have been dried under the hand-dryers in the toilets at Heathrow - I didn't get a single funny look. Anyway, no trench foot, no pneumonia, and the best-blocked socks ever.)

My brilliant friends at Signature Needles have solved my sock-drying problem with their new sock blocker/sock drying rack. Love it! Socks dry in record time, and they are elegantly out of the way on my shower rack - and if they are dripping, it all drips nicely into the tub. The rack also hangs over a doorknob or a corner of my laundry rack.

Brilliant and beautiful - they've done it again.

(All I need now is a travel version... )

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reader Mail: On Signature Straight Needles

Lisa read my post on the Signature dpns and asks about their straight needles.

I have one set - I'm not much of a straight needle knitter myself, I find them too long. It sounds silly, but they get caught in my bracelet.

I do have a single pair of the 7 inch needles in the 4.5mm size - the size I used most often for demonstrations in my classes. I'm teaching a fixing mistakes class this week, for example, and I have a couple of swatches I like to have on needles.

There is a major difference between the straights and the dpns - and that's the bodies of the needles. The straight needles have very slick bodies; the dpns are slightly grooved so that your knitting stays in place.

You can also get different points with the straights - Stiletto, Blunt or Middy. I'm a Stiletto girl all the way, but I can definitely see the value of blunt needles for fuzzy or splitty yarns. You also have a choice of decorative ends, which I think is a lovely touch.

Again, colour coded by size, which is not to be underestimated. (In my Fixing Mistakes class, one of the confessions I hear quite regularly is about knitting with mismatched needles...)

Again, they are an investment, and might not be for everyone - but they are tremendous, tremendous tools.

The yarn, BTW, is the amazingly soft, warm and delicious bamboo blend sock yarn from Bijou Basin. Am noodling on a scarf/lace idea for it and I have been swatching. I do love the Signature needles for lace because the famous Stiletto points are unbelievably good for all that decreasing.

(I'm not being paid to advertise these products, I promise. I'm just a fan!)

On Display...

A few weeks ago, Megan at Lettuce Knit got a funny phone call. From a certain High-End Department Store on Bloor Street in Toronto. They needed a scarf. A red scarf. For their holiday store display. Specifically, they needed 58 feet of red scarf.

Megan found the heaviest red yarn she could locate - Cascade Magnum - and I did some math.

58 feet was going to take 15 skeins.

The wrinkle was that this High-End Department Store needed it within a week.

Calls were made. Knitters were gathered. DVDs were rented. 15mm needles were distributed.

Me, I did about one and half skeins' worth.

I went to visit it last weekend, this scarf. Looks rather chic, no? It's in three sections, spread around this rather amazing display on the second floor.

This will be the only time in my life that any of my work will be on display at High-End Department Store, and I'm going to enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Gifting/Thinking About Christmas

I finished the gift project the other day... looks pretty good, I think.

N. is modeling it very reluctantly.

A labour of love indeed. It wasn't a giant project, and so it wasn't a huge burden, and I'm happy to have done it.

Lots of good comments and discussions around the "Labours of Love" post. One knitter says that she's entirely happy to knit for someone who doesn't ask - since it's a genuine, from-the-heart gift. Makes sense to me!

I am considering knitting one gift for Christmas this year. Just a small thing, but I think it will be appreciated. Or will at least get a laugh.

Speaking of Christmas, have developed a mild obsession with this....

Yes, it's tacky Christmas sock yarn with glitter in it. And I needs me some.

My lame attempt at rationalizing it goes like this... I'm always knitting socks in public, and usually have one on the go when I'm teaching - and wouldn't it be fun it if were seasonal!

Yeah, that's it.

Might have to make a special pilgrimage to Mary Maxim to get me a ball.

Yes, that's right. It's tacky Christmas sock yarn with glitter in it MADE BY MARY MAXIM.

I am so ashamed...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flat 'at

I look sorta drunk, but for a variety of reasons, that's actually the right look for the hat.

Morgan, as published on Knitty. It's a feat of engineering, that hat. Very clever pattern. Not an easy go - there isn't a single section of autopilot knitting - every single row/round has to be counted, with increases and decreases and short rows.

But absolutely, 100% worth it.

My new favourite drinking hat.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Price No Object/Labours of Love

Every knitter I know has been asked at least once... "Will you knit a hat/sweater/scarf/pair of socks for me?"

All knitters, when asked this question, hold their breath for the inevitable next bit... "I'll pay."

I recently had a very nice email from someone in Australia - probably found me through a google search - asking if I could help him find someone to knit him socks. Socks like his grandmother used to make. "Price not really an object."

I tweeted about this, and got some amusing responses. Yup, we'll all been there.

Most sensible knitters simply provide a rough estimate of the number of hours required to knit such a thing, and the conversation stops dead. Some knitters I know quote a (seemingly) outrageous amount - $1000! - to much the same effect.

But you know, $1000 isn't far off for a sweater.

An average pair of socks, by the average knitter, in average sock yarn takes on the order of 10-15 hours. Multiply that by a reasonable hourly rate - $15 an hour, let's say - and that's $150 to $225 in knitting time. Then add yarn - $25 for something nice.

$175-$250 for a pair of socks.

A sweater can be 40 hours knitting. That's $600 for the time. And then a sweater's worth of yarn is $100 or more. So we're at $700. Then factor in things like opportunity cost (Christmas is coming and by making this sweater for you I'm sacrificing key gift-making hours), cost of needles you have to buy, and the coffee and chocolate you'll need to push through a deadline project - and all of a sudden $1000 doesn't look insane.

I don't begrudge a non-knitter asking the question. It's reasonable enough. After all, it wouldn't occur to someone that knitting could be so slow. You can see the incredulous look on the faces of the muggles... WHAT? This is a sensible use of time?

At this point, I usually just smile and remark that it's a labour of love.

All that having been said, many of my friends and students know that I'm currently knitting a scarf for someone to give as a gift to someone else. The person who asked me to knit it likely hasn't the faintest idea how much work is going into it - and in this case, that's ok. I love both of them (the requestor and the giftee) and it means a lot to me to do it.

(You know who you are - damn right you're taking me out for a meal, though ;-) )

Sunday, November 08, 2009

On Pairs of Socks - Or Not

Of late, I've been noodling on the concept of a pair of socks.

Most pairs of socks are two of the same. That is, the two are exactly the same.

But when I look at my sock drawer, I have almost as many pairs of "unmatched" socks as I do matched. That is, socks that differ in some way...

there's Regia Nation Colour socks of course....

And then there's a pair each of Noro Kureyon socks and Silk Garden socks - neither of which is precisely the same.

The Kureyon socks on the left are more identifiably a pair - colour #185; the ones on the right are less obviously related, but I promise they are - colour #245.

Up next is the Zauberball I bought at Sock Summit...

which has even longer lengths of colour than the Noro yarns - looks at Lisa's as an example. Can't wait to see how different they work out to be!

This shouldn't come as a surprise - I do have a history of this, even with patternwork on my socks... the Signature socks differ, as do the Midnight Sky socks.

All of which is to say that I think I've landed on my theme for 2010 sock knitting - odd ones!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Vampire Socks Update

To paraphrase, "I may be sock knitting's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it."

I'm very much enjoying the knit-stalking, following all the active projects on Ravelry. Loving all of them, some great choices of colours. There's a green Vulcan boyfriend variant (Rav link). And I loved Grace's picture of her William The Bloody (a.k.a. Spike socks).

It captured precisely what I was aiming for.

This is all the thanks a designer wants... to have knitters amused and happy with my pattern.

Knit on!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Conference Knitting/On Deadlines

I've met some great new knit friends of late, through Ravelry thanks to the pattern, and in various shops.

Had a great time on Monday with two intrepid shoppers, visitors to our city. They had flown into town for a conference and needed some conference knitting. The shop was their first stop, before even registering.

They wanted something to knit while they were in session - something that was interesting, but not so difficult that they couldn't pay attention. And they were looking for something Canadian, as a souvenir. (That means it doesn't come out of the yarn budget, you see. It comes out of the travel budget. Made perfect sense to me.)

For B., we settled on some Fleece Artist silk for a Clapotis.

A. confessed somewhat sheepishly that she didn't actually need a new project. She had one in her bag. She did need buttons, though. You see, A., had a completed sweater back in her bag, a bunch of yarn and pattern, and a deadline. She is presenting on Friday and plans to wear the sweater. "And if it's not done, I'll be standing up there in my bra."

I wish her godspeed!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Miss November

Almost exactly a year ago, Miko and Melinda arrived at my apartment with a camera and their senses of humour turned up to 11.

This is what resulted...

Yes, I am Miss November in The Purple Purl Naked Knitters for Charity calendar... proceeds went to Princess Margaret Hospital.

Knitters everywhere are looking at my cheerful mug this morning... I think today I shall wear the socks I was knitting in the picture.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

On Finishing/Scary Things for Hallowe'en/Thinking about Christmas

With help from me and Ann Budd, Mum is knitting a sweater for T, out of Briggs and Little yarn. A simple stocking stitch sweater with set-in sleeves and a crew-neck.

It's coming along brilliantly - and quickly, being a chunky weight - and Mum's been using it as a palate cleanser between two more complex projects. (A strategy I use myself - having something complicated on the go for when you've got the time, brainpower and strong light, and then something easy for when you just need some therapy knitting, or for when you actually want to pay attention to something else, or you're in the car and don't want to make yourself car-sick.)

She's ready to put it together and work the neckline. So we had the talk about sewing up.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: proper seaming techniques seem to be a rare and wondrous - nay, magical - art. I love teaching the Finishing class, just for the looks of amazement at the beauty and ease of a mattress stitch seam. It's incredibly gratifying, sure, but I know that by teaching proper finishing, I'm opening up a whole new world of knitting projects - things that HAVE ... cue scary music.... more than one piece!!!

There are lots of knitters out there who dislike finishing, and will do anything to avoid sewing up. (Even, god forbid, knitting one-piece sweaters. Stop with the one-piece sweaters, people. They're not *that* much easier, they can be difficult to fit properly, and because they have no seams they are often saggy and stretchy and baggy.)

I have said it many times: proper finishing is neither difficult nor scary. And it's SO worth it. A well-sewn seam is a thing of beauty, and makes a garment looks so much better.

How did I learn to properly finish? The bible, of course.

If you're serious about knitting, if you want your garments to look their best, if you want to be proud of your work, if you want to be able to wear the sweaters you make for events other than walking the dog, if you want to be able to work projects that come in more than one piece - if you want to be a better knitter - BUY THIS BOOK.

Put it on your Christmas/Chanukah/New Year/Birthday/Diwali/Kwaanza wish list. Damn it, register for it as a wedding gift. I don't care. Just get a copy.

I've had my copy since the mid 1990s, and it's well-loved and looking pretty tired. I paid $60 for it at the time - which was totally appalling, but good knitting books were very hard to find back in the dark ages at the end of the last century. The dust jacket is long gone, it's dog-eared, stained with coffee - and I use it every day.

(And yes, yes, I know there are lots of great references and resources online. But you still need this book. Not only does it show you how to do anything you might ever want to know - a million different methods for casting on, casting off, increasing, decreasing, seaming, you name it - but it also explains why and where you might need to use a particular technique. Online videos are terrific for seeing a technique illustrated in three dimensions; the bible provides the background you need to know where to use a technique.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hello New Friends & Visitors!

Lots of new friends dropping by the blog after seeing My Vampire Boyfriend Sock on Knitty.

Nice to meet you all! I'm Wisehilda on Ravelry, BTW.

I cannot wait to see all the socks... lots of discussion from Team Edward about using sparkly sock yarn - well, of course.

In case we haven't met before, here are a few things you might enjoy...

My Socks 101 and Socks 102 articles on Knitty - everything you wanted to know about the hows, whys and wherefores of Sock Knitty.

A handful of free sock patterns: The February Lady Sock,

The Christmas sock (all over mock-cable rib for a great fit - and no cable needle required!)

and the ever- popular Basic Ribbed Sock (sized for men, also). A great first sock pattern, and a classic I use over and over again. So do others - check out the projects on Ravelry!

And a few socks patterns to buy....

the new Forest & Trees Sock (don't let the colour overwhelm the patterning, and don't let the patterning overwhelm the colour - a nice balance!) -on Patternfish & Ravelry

the Signature Cables & Twists sock (because who says that a pair of socks has to be exactly the same?)

the Open House sock (a great way to use up leftovers!) on Patternfish & Ravelry

And the Exploded Ribbing sock (as seen on Knitty in the Socks 102 article) - Patternfish & Ravelry

Thanks for dropping by! Hope to see you again soon!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Vampire Boyfriend...

Just in time for Hallowe'en (and the new Twilight movie), the Vampire Boyfriend Sock is live on Knitty.

Thanks to Sarah and Cheryl for awesome photos!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Converting Magic Loop Patterns to DPNs

(And back...)

I think everyone knows I prefer DPNs to magic loop for socks. No judgment on either technique - I know which one I prefer and I stick with it. I am good friends with avowed ML users; and they seem to tolerate me.

The thing that does frustrate me about the whole situation, however, is the patterns. It surprises me how many patterns are written specifically for one technique or the other. (And yes, I'm guilty of this, but I've changed, and am slowly trying to update my older patterns.) I think, as designers, we're doing knitters a disservice. Sure, a really experienced knitter can convert on the fly - but not everyone is confident enough with their needles, or wanting to do some homework with their knitting project.

Since ML and DPNs produce the same result, and really are the same technique with a single minor difference- how the stitches are distributed on the needles - there is no reason why the patterns shouldn't accommodate all techniques - hey, even those who knit with two circulars!

With this in mind, I wrote a blog post for my friends at Signature Needle Arts on how to convert from Magic Loop patterns for working on DPNs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Winding Yarn

Three years ago, after winding far too much sock yarn by hand, I was given a swift and ball winder as a gift. Changed my life, absolutely.

It seems like more and more yarn is only available in skeins, rather than in balls. All well and good when you have access to a swift and ballwinder - either at a friendly neighbourhood shop - or at home.

If you don't, then the resource have been known to press a chair - or a friend, husband or small child -- into service to hold the yarn while you wind a ball. It's not impossible, but just tedious.

I was teaching a class recently, and I think I frightened a student of mine. She was prepping a skein to be wound. She untwisted it, took the label off, and proceeded to start to undo the little ties of yarn that keep it in a neat skein.

All before she'd put it on the swift.

I might have barked at her. (If I did, J., you know who you are - I apologize!)

I do know I dashed across the room to forcibly stop what she was doing.

Once, a long time, ago, I used to do that. Undo all the ties before I put it on the swift. But then, once, I dropped it as I was manoeuvering to get it on the swift. The thing hit the floor in one giant tangled mess.

Needless to say, I don't do that anymore.

So, J. - I hope you weren't offended. Please know that it's all about saving your sanity - and time. Whatever you do, do not, under any circumstances, undo the ties and remove the label until the thing is safely on the swift.

Trust me, I know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Patterns Available Online

The Scowl
Scarf/cowl hybrid, with clever buttoning. Uses one skein (100m) of a fabulous superbulky deliciousness. I used Misti Alpaca Super Chunky, and have also successfully substituted Berroco Peruvia Thick & Quick.


Silk Garden Hat & Wristwarmers set

Two balls of Noro Silk Garden for the set! Quick and easy for gift-giving, or just those days when you are seriously tired of your existing winter hat.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Creativ Festival/New Designs

Exhausting but fun.

It's unusual to find myself in a mixed crafts environment. And I'm not just talking about crochet... At the Creativ Festival there are quilters and embroiderers and smockers and cross-stitchers, not to mention the scrapbooking.

I love looking at the other crafts, to see how they use colour, to see what sorts of textures and designs you can create. I do occasionally flirt with cross-stitch - mostly because of its portability - but I'm otherwise pretty monogamous to (with?) knitting.

I have to say, though, that the highlight of the show was meeting Ozzy the Alpaca. Really! Ozzy was in the booth of one of the alpaca farms, and he was charming and handsome and serene. I'm sure he'd be very warm to cuddle up to on the couch...

It's also a great show for me because I get to meet knitters from other parts of Canada - I had knitters from as far away as Calgary and Quebec in my classes.

At the show, I launched a couple of new designs, in The Purple Purl booth: an updated Silk Garden hat & gauntlets set...

using standard Silk Garden. (The previous version used the chunky weight.) Two balls only for the set!

And then there's the Scowl.

It's a scarf-cowl hybrid, so named because that's the look you'll have on your face by the time it's cold enough to be wearing it...

It makes a cowl...

A collar....

And a scarf...

It uses two skeins of the Misti Alpaca Super Chunky, and some clever short rows!

Kits are available at The Purple Purl, and patterns will be available online soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creativ Festival This Weekend

If you're around the Toronto area this weekend, I encourage you to come by the Creativ Festval. Events start today, and it runs all weekend in the South Building of the Convention Centre.

I'm teaching two classes - Socks Friday, and Entrelac on Saturday.

The retail fair runs Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. I'll be in the booth for A Needle Pulling Thread magazine - drop by. You may also run into me at the Yarn Cafe, hosted by my friends from the Purple Purl.

The show covers many crafts, not just knitting, but there's definitely a good yarn presence. Exhibitor and instructor list.

The Westminster Fibers booth has a display of Rowan garments and designs going back over 30 years, and on Friday and Saturday, in booth 1024, you'll be able to meet an Alpaca (which I will be keeping away from my face).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oohh... New Noro... And Mitten Weather

I was surfing around, checking out some of my favourite LYS sites, and I tripped over this on the Naked Sheep site...

Gorgeous, eh? This mittten was worked with Noro Bonbori, using my mitten template as published on Knitty.

Everyone knows I'm a ho for Noro (t-shirt, anyone?), and this is a Noro yarn I haven't worked with. I'm dying to try it out. Just look at those colours!

On a related note... it's zero degrees Celsius in Toronto this morning... brrr... definitely mitten weather.

If you've got some Noro lying around, or your hands are cold - or you just realized like I did that it's just over 10 knitting weeks to Christmas - then you might be interested in revisiting my mitten knitting lesson and design-your-own-mitten instructions at Knitty.

This is what the lovely ladies at the Sheep used to make the mitten pictured above.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Teaching TV Hosts to Knit

Don't laugh, but I'm going on TV tomorrow morning. It's the CH11 Hamilton breakfast show, "Morning Live", but it's still TV. 8:10am, I believe. (No, Mum, I don't know which channel that is on your TV, and yes, we'll be recording it...)

I'm there to talk about the Creativ Festival, and the all-Canadian needlecraft magazine, A Needle Pulling Thread. I have a 5 minute segment, and they've suggested I teach the hosts to knit.

I do have a partially knit scarf on the needles, and I figure if I can get someone to execute a single knit stitch properly, I'll be good.

I was working on the scarf yesterday, thinking about teaching. I don't often teach beginners, and so it really forced me to think about the process, and how I hold the needles. I knit English (that is, I throw the yarn with my right hand), and with the very large demo needles I'm using, it's pretty cumbersome. I have to hold the right needle with my left hand so that I can pick up and wrap the yarn.

So I decided to try Continental - with the yarn in my left hand. Although I'm clumsy at it myself, and my gauge wasn't wildly even, I think it might actually be easier to explain and demo.

Something to noodle on.

I am taking a whole load of knitwear for me and the hosts to wear, so if nothing else, people can see what cool stuff they can make. I'm hoping that N. cashmere toque is going to get its 5 minutes of fame on the head of a Hamilton morning show host.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Worst Baby Yarn Ever?

The other day I ran into V., a student and knitting buddy of mine.

She's always up for new and interesting projects, and is participating in a craft swap with a co-worker. Her co-worker is a skilled potter, and is making some custom items for V. In return, V. is knitting sweaters for her co-worker's two young children - a baby and a two-year-old. The co-worker had tried knitting in the past, but decided that it wasn't her thing. So she dug out the yarn from the inevitable half-finished project and asked V. to use that for the sweaters.

Thing is, the yarn is Lopi. Dark green Lopi.

Lopi is less common, it seems, than it used to be. There's only a couple of the stores in the city I know of that carry it. And I know of knitters who have never heard of it, and have certainly never knitted with it.

Suffice it to say that Lopi is about the worst choice possible for a baby sweater.

It's not washable.
It's chunky.
It sheds.
And - most important of all - it's not what exactly you'd call soft.

Me, I'll wear any fibre (well, except for alpaca, apparently), and I'm not prone to itching. But prolonged exposure to Lopi makes me even me itch.

Now, in all fairness, it's a jacket yarn, rather than a sweater yarn. I wouldn't hesitate to use it for an adult. Well, ok, as long as I know it's not going to be worn next to the skin, and I know the adult will hand-wash it, and owns a good lint brush.

But for kids? No way.

The problem is that the Co-worker told V. how much she'd loved the yarn when she chose it - and V. is a nice sort who doesn't really want to insult.

We discussed some coping strategies. Jackets? Felting it? An extended soak in cream conditioner?

And landed on the simplest of all: "Hey, Co-worker, this yarn isn't machine washable. I wouldn't want you to have to worry about hand-washing these lovely sweaters I'm about to knit for you. How about I find you something that doesn't require so much maintenance?"

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I'm definitely allergic to something/Yak/Not Fussy

Hmm... this is the third time in recent weeks that I've had irritated eyes. On each occasion, I was knitting and/or handling yarn (but then there is rarely at time I'm not), but each time it was different yarn.

I've had a few helpful suggestions on how to test for an allergy - and some optimistic ideas about what it might be other than a fibre allergy. Could be dust, or the dye, or something that's used in the yarn preparation process. Fingers are crossed.

I did the basic test - tuck a bit of the fibre I think is bothering me into my clothes, in a sensitive area. Let's just say that my underarms have no issue with Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

On a different but related note, I've been working with Bijou Basin's yak yarn of late... it's seriously delicious stuff. Very nice soft hand, light with a bit of drape, and the colour is wonderful - a sort of tweedy hot chocolate shade.

I'm working a design for a men's vest. Plain and simple, no fussy detail, nothing fancy. I don't know about the men you know, but the men I know don't like anything fussy. When talking to men about knitwear, the word "fussy" comes up a lot, in combination with the word "not".

The vest is a lot of stocking stitch worked in the round, and therefore is straightforward, not-very-interesting knitting. To add a bit of fun for the knitter, however, I've included a cheeky detail - a tiny little cable at the side seams.

I think this qualifies as "not fussy".

I hope.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Alpaca Rash?

I've been playing with some Misti Alpaca of the Super Chunky variety.... working on a scarf/cowl sorta idea, with short rows. (I think I'll call it a Scowl since by the time it's cold enough to need a giant cowl, that's what I'll be wearing on my face.)

After three or four hours of on-and-off knitting, and wrapping the piece around my face and neck, I noticed that my eyes were itchy, and there was some redness on my cheek.

This disturbs me no end.

The yarn is a 50/50 wool and alpaca blend. It doesn't seem very sheddy, but I did feel like there were little hairs coming off it as I worked.

If I have to choose, I'd rather be allergic to Alpaca than wool, but it's not a choice I want to have to make.

I spent half an hour or so with it a couple of days later, and nothing untoward seemed to happen, but I am a still a bit worried.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

February Lady Sock: Free Pattern!

You might recall that I knitted a February Lady Sweater.

Being a socky sort of girl, I decided that a pair of socks might be nice, to go with it. The lace pattern lends itself very nicely to socks - it's a nice ribby sort of look.

Ladies’ S (up to shoe size 7), L (shoe size 7½ and up) - for a wider foot work the larger size.

400yds/365m sock yarn that knits to gauge
1 set 2.5 mm double pointed needles OR 1 long 2.5mm circular needle for magic loop method
stitch marker if you're using magic loop

36 sts = 4”/10 cm in stocking stitch using 2.5mm needles
28 sts = 4”/10 cm in gull lace pattern using 2.5mm needles

GULL LACE PATTERN: Over a multiple of 7 sts, worked in the round.
Round 1: *K1, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k1; repeat from * to end of round.
Round 2: Knit all sts.
Round 3: *K2tog, yo, k3, yo, ssk; repeat from * to end of round.
Round 4: Knit all sts.

Directions are for smallest size, with numbers for larger size in parentheses.

Cuff & Leg:
Cast on 50 [56] stitches. Distribute stitches evenly across needles and join for working in the round, being careful not to twist.
Ribbing round: *K1, p1; rep from * to end of round.
Repeat ribbing round until sock measures 1 [1.25] inch/2.5 [3] cm from cast on. For smaller size ONLY, k2tog at end of final round.

Change to Gull Lace Pattern and work until leg measures 6.5 [7] inches/17 [18] cm, ending with Round 4.

Turn Heel:
This portion is knitted flat, in stocking stitch.

Knit first 28 [28] stitches. (Slip the rem 21 [28] sts to a holder if you wish.) Starting with a purl row, work 21 [23] rows of stocking stitch on these sts, slipping the first stitch of every row. RS is facing for next row.

Heel turn row 1 (RS): Knit 19 [19] stitches, ssk, turn.
Heel turn row 2 (WS): Slip 1, purl 10 [10] stitches, p2tog, turn.
Heel turn row 3 (RS): Slip 1, knit 10 [10] stitches, ssk, turn.
Heel turn row 4 (WS): Slip 1, purl 10 [10] stitches, p2tog, turn.

Repeat last two rows until all stitches have been worked. Ensure RS is facing for next row. 12 [12] sts rem.

Re-establish Round and Create Gusset:
Knit the heel stitches. Pick up and knit 15 [16] stitches along selvedge edge at first side of heel, using slipped stitches as a guide. Work across the 21 [28] stitches of instep as per lace pattern round 1. Pick up and knit 15 [16] stitches along selvedge edge at other side of heel, using slipped stitches as a guide. Work 6 [6] stitches from the heel. 63 [72] sts total.

The beginning of the round is now at the centre of the heel. Place a marker if required for magic loop method.

Decrease Gusset:
First gusset round: K6, k 15 [16] tbl; work across 21 [28] sts of instep in lace pattern as established; k 15 [16] tbl, k6.

Gusset decrease round: Knit to 2 sts before instep, k2tog; work across 21 [28] sts of instep in lace pattern as established; ssk, k to end of round.
Work 2 even rounds.

Repeat these last three rounds until 36 sts remain on the sole - 57 [64] sts total.

Work even in pattern as established until foot measures 5 cm/2 inches less than desired length, ending with Round 4 of the lace pattern.

Setup for toe: K to instep sts; *k2, m1, k3, m1, k2; rep from * 2 [3] more times; k to end of round. 63 [72] sts.

If required, rearrange your sts so that there are 31 [36] on your instep needle, and 32 [36] for the sole.

Shape Toe:
Work a decrease round: Knit to 3 sts before instep, k2tog, k2,ssk, k to last 3 sts of instep, k2tog, k2, ssk, k to end of round.
Work 3 rounds even.

Work a decrease round followed by 2 even rounds. Repeat these last three rounds once more.
Work a decrease round followed by 1 even round. Repeat these last two rounds twice more.
Work decrease rounds until 11 [8] stitches rem.

To finish, cut yarn, draw through the final stitches and tighten. Weave in ends.

These socks will benefit from blocking: get them soaking wet, roll them in a towel to wring out most of the water, and then put them on. Remove them immediately, and hang to dry.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Tried It Again/Smelly Needles

Some interesting discussion on Magic Loop, within the comments, on Twitter, and in my classes this week.

I was working on another Open House Sock, this time in Koigu, and I decided to give it a go again.

I'll be honest, part of what has kept me from magic loop has been the needles themselves. Everyone told me that Addi Lace needles are the way to go - the needles are pointy but not too slick, and the cords are nice and flexible.

So that's what I tried the first time around.

And I gamely knit a pair of socks. But as I was working, I noticed something weird. I honestly thought it was just me at first. Or maybe the yarn.

But no, it's not just me. And it wasn't the yarn. Addi Lace needles give off a distinctive smell. A coppery tang.

There is brass in the needle composition, and as they warm up in your hands they smell. It's stronger for some knitters than others, apparently. Something to do with skin chemistry. And for me, it's pretty damn strong.

Inspired by some of the feedback I had about cord length, I decided to try again, this time with a 40 inch long Addi Turbo. They don't smell, which is great, but they simply aren't as good for magic loop. The cord isn't as flexible - I actually managed to make a little kink in the one I was using. And the points just aren't as sharp. The needles are faster, though. The Addi Lace needles are a little bit slower, not as slick - which is terrific for lace. But you don't necessarily need that level of control for stocking stitch socks.

So it's back to my dpns, at least feeling relieved that it's not just me that doesn't like the smell of the Addi Lace needles.

On a related note, TracyKM left a comment on one of my recent posts about magic loop, pointing out that she found a reference to it in Debbie New's spectacular book Unexpected Knitting. She doesn't give it a name, but says that she's been doing it and teaching it for years. I wonder when the name got attached to the technique...

And on a different related note, one ball of Koigu is enough for a pair of Open House socks!